Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

Airman shares techniques, tips for best ways to handle customers

By Dave Smith

21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  —  Most everybody has a memorable customer service experience. Some situations lead to decisions never to return to an establishment, others lead to rave reviews on social media. Either way one thing is certain: no organization can afford to take providing good customer service lightly.

Staff Sgt. Cassandra Follmann, 21st Force Support Squadron unit training manager, offered techniques and tips for the best ways to handle various types of customers during a March 3 class at the First Term Airmen’s Center.

Attendees from a variety of job functions shared experiences of their own during the class, most from their positions as providers of customer service. Venting about frustrating experiences is a way to relieve tension and feel better afterward, Follmann said. Allowing staff to vent in a safe environment is a tip she offered for creating a culture of customer service.

Other tips for improving the customer experience were provided as well. Follmann advised the group to be available for customers.

“When someone enters your office, you need to look up from your computer, stop whatever else you’re doing as soon as possible,” Follmann said.

Greeting customers and helping them directly are key elements in providing good customer service as well. Standing when a customer enters, and using proper military customs and courtesies can set the right first impression she said. Using non-verbal forms of communication help too. Making eye contact or subtle gestures like nodding the head let the customer know they have your full attention. Friendly, appropriate greetings go a long way in creating a positive experience as well.

Handling upset customers is a challenge, but following a few guidelines will help make the process better for everyone involved. Follmann presented a Customer Bill of Rights to help in these situations. The needs of upset customers include: Being taken seriously; being listened to and understood; being respected; receiving immediate action; and being assured that a problem won’t happen again.

“Remember,” Follmann pointed out, “Courtesies can be extended to customers through the tone of your voice, actions and overall attitude.”

What customers ultimately want, she said, is having their needs understood. Being clear and avoiding confusing terminology like unfamiliar acronyms helps. Confirm and summarize the facts and clarify the issue if necessary.

“Make sure you break it down for people, but don’t be condescending,” she advised. “You don’t always have to say ‘I’m sorry,’ but put yourself in their shoes. Show them understanding, empathy, but limit ‘I’m sorry.’”

Follmann said internal customers are just as important as external ones and suggested everyone keep that in mind when dealing with people.

“You might rely on other work centers to complete your mission,” she said.

The Force Development Center holds many professional development courses for members of Team Pete. For more information call 556-9226 or 556-9158 for class information and to register.

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